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Puppy training: Future service dogs head to maximum-security prison

Patrick Semansky / AP

Inmate John Barba works with Dill, a veteran assistance dog in training, at Western Correctional Institution in Cresaptown, Md. Dill is one of three dogs assigned since September to inmates at the maximum-security prison for basic training as service dogs for disabled military veterans.

The Associated Press reports from Cresaptown, Md. — Hazard Wilson's new cellmate is a hairy bundle of energy whose playful zeal can't be contained by steel doors: a five-month-old golden retriever. Yardley is one of three canines assigned since September to inmates at a maximum-security prison in western Maryland for training as service dogs for disabled military veterans.

The number of programs nationwide using inmates to train service dogs is growing, but the program at Western Correctional Institute might be the first to use incarcerated veterans to train dogs for other veterans.

Patrick Semansky / AP

Dill looks on as inmate John Barba walks away after commanding him to sit and stay. The inmates, who are also veterans, are among the state's first prisoners to join a national trend of training service dogs in correctional institutions.

Professional trainers say prison-raised dogs tend to do better than those raised traditionally in foster homes, because puppies respond well to consistency and rigid schedules. That's just what they get in prison.

Patrick Semansky / AP

John Barba looks at a calendar as he sits in the 6-by-9-foot cell that he shares with Dill, a veteran assistance dog in training.

Wilson, a former military police officer honorably discharged in 1982, said he's proud to help another veteran.

"I feel as though they don't get what they deserve when they come home," he said. "This is a part of why I do what I do." Read the full story.

Editor's note: Images taken on Nov. 26, 2012 and made available to NBC News today.

Patrick Semansky / AP

John Barba walks out of his cell with Dill. Professional trainers say prison-raised dogs tend to graduate sooner and at higher rates than those raised traditionally in foster homes because puppies respond well to the consistency and rigid schedules of prison life.

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